Starting a new business is never easy — nevermind starting it in the middle of a pandemic. This might seem like a huge risk, but for some, it has seemed to pay off. And thanks can definitely be given to social media.

But then why is it that there are still so many South Africans active on social media platforms where brands don’t even bother to feature? Take TikTok, for instance: It is estimated that around six million South Africans are on this platform, and yet, less than 20% of brands have made use of it.

It might be time to take note from Luke Silver, co-owner of Fired Up Pizza: Through the power of social media, this new South African start-up reached countless South Africans and won their hearts over on TikTok.

media update’s Talisa Jansen van Rensburg digs deep to find out how social media paves the way for small-business owners.

You have received 214 700 views on a TikTok video. Do you believe that this app led to your business receiving more consumers?

Definitely. Our TikTok audience rallied behind Fired Up's story and it translated into real and engaged customers. People have come from all walks of life; we have had customers stopping past from as far out as Pretoria.

What can South African brands learn from making use of social media apps, such as TikTok?

Our marketing campaign was entirely organic (unpaid) and TikTok fundamentally changed the course of our opening by providing us with our first 100 customers and substantial social proofing.

Social media is a dynamic space with an expanding list of affordable and free ways to market your business and engage with your customers.

What advice can you give to brands wanting to market their start-up business in South Africa? For example, should South African brands focus more on digital media, or traditional forms of marketing / advertising??

I think it would be foolish to say traditional forms of marketing are obsolete; I think the fundamental principles still apply in both digital and physical marketing practices. The reach on social media platforms is exponential, and you have greater control over who sees the content that you create.

Alternatively, methods as subtle as improved signage outside your shop can have an equally dramatic effect on a business such as a restaurant.

The creation of a marketing campaign should be centered around finite goals with actionable and trackable results (within a budget that makes sense). For a small business owner, keep marketing in-house.

It does involve a learning curve but don’t be afraid to try things out yourself and get creative with it.

What is the best way to market your brand during the pandemic?

For us, personally, the best option was through social media channels. We were able to create our own content, build a community surrounding our restaurant and reach new people within our budget.

I do not think the fundamental rules of marketing have changed. Pandemic resultant factors such as the budget and the product you are marketing may be of larger consequence due to the pandemic. Small businesses were forced to get creative and try new things across the board.

I'd personally recommend TikTok as a platform. Within our own personal circles, our business owner peers have managed to dramatically increase reach and brand recognition in a way that simply did not happen for them on Facebook and Instagram.

Do you think social media marketing is the way to go for new start-ups in South Africa?

I do not think any business’s marketing strategy is comprehensive without social media marketing or an online presence; it really would be a missed opportunity. Marketing on social media is an increasingly dynamic tool. It provides a great way to gather business insights and creatively put yourself in front of a potential customer.

Why is social media so vital for business, particularly when considering the current economic climate?

Social media is vital because it provides a competitive edge for either your business or your competitors. The reach on social media is undeniable, and your business is disadvantaged if it lacks an online presence.

The current climate has certainly accelerated the process of businesses establishing an online or social media presence.

Do you think there are benefits to hiring a social media influencer? Do you think that this would impact the way consumers view new business start-ups?

Working with influencers is hit and miss; it is not something you should blindly get into and it is a particularly tricky niche in marketing. Influencer marketing is, however, undeniably valuable for brand awareness and even sales if executed correctly.

Fired Up has dabbled in certain forms of influencer marketing with positive results. I think businesses should be conscious of the influencers they align themselves with, remain transparent with the process and have a clear expectation and target in mind for their influencer marketing campaigns.

Influencer marketing is still in its conception phase in South Africa and the majority offer little to no value, so tread with caution!

Does your brand make use of TikTok? Be sure to let us know in the comments section below.

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Getting more followers should be one of your brand's core focuses when it comes to digital marketing. Learn more about Growing your social media: South African edition here.